Issue Date: December 12, 2011
EPA Revises Boiler Regulations
The Environmental Protection Agency is proposing changes to Clean Air Act regulations for industrial boilers and certain incinerators that would slash emissions of mercury, acid gases, and other toxic air pollutants from the worst polluters and reduce compliance costs for industry.
The proposal, released on Dec. 2, would revise a set of regulations for boilers and solid-waste incinerators that EPA finalized in February under a court-ordered deadline. EPA agreed to revisit those standards in response to criticism by manufacturers and many members of Congress that the agency’s initial plan would have imposed a massive economic burden.
EPA says the maximum achievable control technology standards outlined in its February ruling will now apply to only the 5,500 boilers that emit the majority of pollution. All other boilers are already clean enough or will need only maintenance and tune-ups to comply with the revised standards, the agency says.
The boilers subject to the rule make up less than 1% of the total 1.5 million boilers in the U.S. Owners will have to add new pollution controls or take other steps to reduce their emissions.
EPA says the rule changes, to begin in 2015, will still offer major public health benefits, including the prevention of 8,100 premature deaths and 52,000 asthma attacks every year. In addition, the agency says, compliance with the revised final rule will cost businesses about $2.3 billion annually, rather than the $3.8 billion estimate for the standards proposed in 2010.
“With this action, EPA is applying the right standards to the right boilers,” says Gina McCarthy, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Air & Radiation. “Gathering the latest and best real-world information is leading to practical, affordable air pollution safeguards that will provide the vital and overdue health protection that Americans deserve.”
EPA says it plans to issue a revised final rule in the spring of 2012.
“We appreciate EPA’s thoughtful consideration of these rules and willingness to make sensible changes,” says Calvin M. Dooley, president and CEO of the American Chemistry Council, a trade association representing the nation’s largest chemical manufacturers. “While we need to review the rules for technical details, it appears that improvements have been made.”
The improvements include flexible compliance options for meeting emission limits, allowing the use of work practice standards to reduce emissions of certain pollutants, and providing more flexibility for boiler units burning clean gases, Dooley says.
Public health groups also endorse the proposed revisions. “It is past time to move forward with these lifesaving standards,” the American Lung Association said in a statement. “Research has shown that toxic air pollution from industrial boilers harms human health, targeting the circulatory, respiratory, nervous, endocrine, and other essential life systems.”
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